Frommer's lists exact prices in the local currency. However, rates fluctuate, so before departing consult a currency exchange website such as www.oanda.com/convert/classic to check up-to-the-minute rates.
For decades Paris was known as one of the most expensive cities on earth. It still is a pricey destination, but London has surpassed it. Paris is not as expensive as Tokyo or Oslo, but even an average hotel can cost $200 or more -- in many cases, much, much more.
It's always advisable to bring money in a variety of forms on a vacation: a mix of cash, credit cards, and traveler's checks. You should also exchange enough petty cash to cover airport incidentals, tipping, and transportation to your hotel before you leave home, or withdraw money upon arrival at an airport ATM.
In many international destinations, ATMs offer the best exchange rates. Avoid exchanging money at commercial exchange bureaus and hotels, which often have the highest transaction fees.
Not just Paris, but all of France is a very expensive destination. To compensate, you can often find top-value food and lodging. Part of the cost is the value-added tax (VAT in English, TVA in French), which adds between 6% and 33% to everything.
Rental cars (and fuel) are expensive, and flying within France costs more than within the U.S. Train travel is relatively inexpensive, especially with a rail pass. Prices in Paris and on the Riviera are higher than in the provinces. Three of the most visited areas -- Brittany, Normandy, and the Loire Valley -- have reasonably priced hotels and restaurants offering superb food at moderate prices.
ATMs are widely available in France, certainly in all cities and bigger towns, and even at a bank or two in smaller places. But don't always count on it. If you're venturing into rural France, it's always good to have euros in your pocket.
The easiest and best way to get cash away from home is from an ATM, sometimes referred to as a "cash machine" or a "cashpoint." The Cirrus (tel. 800/424-7787; www.mastercard.com) and PLUS (tel. 800/843-7587; www.visa.com) networks span the globe; look at the back of your bank card to see which network you're on, then call or check online for ATM locations at your destination. Be sure you know your personal identification number (PIN) and daily withdrawal limit before you depart.
There are problems involved in the use of ATMs. For example, if you make a mistake and punch your secret code wrong into the machine three times, that machine will swallow your card on the assumption that it is being fraudulently used.
Users with alphabetical rather than numerical PINs may be thrown off by the lack of letters on French cash machines. If your PIN is longer than four digits, check with your bank to see if you can use the first four digits, or if you will have to get a new number for use in France.
To get a cash advance by using a credit card at an ATM, ask for a PIN from your credit card company before leaving your home country.
Note: Remember that many banks impose a fee every time you use a card at another bank's ATM, and that fee can be higher for international transactions (up to $5 or more) than for domestic ones (where they're rarely more than $2). In addition, the bank from which you withdraw cash may charge its own fee. For international withdrawal fees, ask your bank.
Credit cards are another safe way to carry money. They provide a convenient record of all your expenses, and they generally offer relatively good exchange rates. You can usually withdraw cash advances from your credit cards at banks or ATMs, provided you know your PIN. Keep in mind that you'll pay interest from the moment of your withdrawal, even if you pay your monthly bills on time. Also, note that many banks now assess a 1% to 3% "transaction fee" on all charges you incur abroad (whether you're using the local currency or your native currency).
Chip and PIN represents a change in the way that credit and debit cards are used. The program is designed to cut down on the fraudulent use of credit cards. More banks are issuing customers Chip and PIN versions of their debit or credit cards, and more vendors are asking for a four-digit personal identification number, which must be entered into a keypad near the cash register. In some cases, a waiter will bring a hand-held model to your table to verify your credit card.
For the time being, both the new and old cards are accepted in shops, hotels, and restaurants regardless of whether they have the new Chip and PIN machines installed. However, some establishments might not accept your credit card unless you have a computer chip imbedded in it; in the changeover in technology, some retailers have falsely concluded that they can no longer accept swipe cards or signature cards without PINs.